Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall ordered a raid on 14 bingo halls that are accused of offering access to electronic gambling devices. The raid is the latest salvo in a decades-long political battle in the state over what actually constitutes a bingo game.
Bingo is the only form of regulated gambling available in Alabama and it has a complicated history in the state. State political authorities and bingo hall operators have battled for decades over the minutiae of what constitutes legal bingo. The machines seized in this week’s raids were, at one point, perfectly legal in the state, according to the Alabama Reporter.
This week’s raid was unusual for several reasons, but mainly because it was conducted by state authorities, not local ones. The reason being that, in the past, when the AG’s office had reached out to local sheriff’s offices for assistance in raiding bingo halls, they were rebuffed. In one county, the sheriff refused to raid a bingo hall suspected of offering access to forbidden electronic bingo machines, because it was owned by his brother. (Alabama is known nationally for superior college football, but not so much for progressive law enforcement.)
Marshall commented on the raid’s during a recent press conference saying, “The law-abiding citizens who live around these facilities and who own property in these areas are the forgotten victims of these type of establishments, establishments that are historically associated with thefts, fraud, gangs, drugs and ultimately violence. The good people of these communities deserve better than illicit casinos in their neighborhoods, and they deserve to have elected officials who are willing to keep it out.”
How much gang activity and drug use is really associated with bingo halls remains to be seen but, for now, the people of Alabama are relatively safe from the threat of unregulated bingo machines.